Why Early Retirement Isn’t For Me

Why Early Retirement Isn’t For Me

The personal finance blogosphere is full of great writers and wonderful blogs. So much so that I consider myself a bit of a personal finance nerd. It is not unusual for me, in a weekend, to devour a couple dozen blog posts, write two of my own, listen to personal finance radio shows like Dave Ramsey or Ric Edelman, and watch YouTube videos of people who have paid off their debt. I even will listen to a podcast or look at potential webinar.

A common theme among many bloggers in this world, as I have mentioned before, is to have FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). My plan along has been to the FI part of FIRE. And while the RE (retire early) part of that equation sounds great I don’t think I could retire early. At least not in the sense of some great blogs out there like Think, Save, Retire, Mr. Money Mustache, Root of Good, Retire by 40 and others.

Reasons for Wanting to Work Full-Time

Now before I go any further let me note that many personal finance bloggers who have retired early didn’t stop working altogether. They just choose to work on different things or they choose when they want to work. However, they aren’t a “slave” to the 9-5 job in order to make things work. That said I have some important personal reasons that I will probably continue to work in the profession I am in for at least another decade or more.

First, simply put I like my job. As a college professor every day is different. I encounter new people, new ideas, etc. Sure I complain about meetings and grading, but in the grand scheme of things I just enjoy my job. I enjoy my students. I enjoy my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunities that come with my job.

Second, I feel intellectually engaged with my position. One of the things that is really important to me is be constantly engaged intellectually in a larger public debate. My primary specialty is the study of language and politics. While other people were bemoaning the election (and I was a bit) I was actually in heaven because of the constant back and forth regarding politics. I love it. I love the fact that I get to write, research, and speak on things that I am passionate about. How many other people can say that?

Third, I don’t have the financial resources to retire early. The plain fact is that I just don’t have the financial resources to retire early. I didn’t start really saving for retirement until 10 years ago. In that time I have built a six figure retirement portfolio (much closer to lower six figures than the two comma club). If I was closer to the two comma club I might consider FIRE, but I am not. And by my calculations with savings and the like I won’t be there for a good decade or so. By that time I am in my early 50s. If I receive an inheritance (unlikely and I don’t want too because that means my parents have passed away) then I guess again I may rethink it. But I just don’t have the financial resources to do so.

Fourth, I need to work to pay off debt. A major subject of this blog has been my struggle and journey to pay off debt, primarily student loan and mortgage debt. Well, I still have a considerable amount of student loan debt, as does Mrs. ROB. We are on the student loan forgiveness plans for our student loan debt. I have had trepidations about it in the past and now I wish I would have pulled my head out of my keister to at least enroll in income-based repayment plans way back when. I could have these things paid off next year if I hadn’t been such a moron. However, I still have 9 years of payments so that means I will be working for a while, unless I can somehow accelerate those payments. But even if that happens, Mrs. ROB still has to pay hers off so that will take as long, if not longer.

Fifth, I get to travel with my job. One of the things I love to do is travel. I have been to over 20 countries and my job has allowed to me to go to several of them. Because I am a pretty active researcher I present research at conferences in different places across the globe. I have presented research in Norway, Belgium, Denmark, China, United Arab Emirates, Czech Republic, and Australia. I also have taken students to Greece and will be taking them to South Africa in January. I have taught in China for two weeks. All of this have been paid for, in part, by my university. I now try to use any kind of travel money I receive to pair research with travel abroad. I get to satisfy my desire to produce and present research with traveling the world and on someone else’s dime. Not a bad gig if you ask me. Plus, all of the great people I have met during my time at these conferences.

Sixth, I don’t want to reinvent myself. The truth is I am comfortable being a professor/teacher. It is really part of my identity as a person. I don’t want to give that up. I am not sure what I would do if I did retire early. I am sure I would work and the idea of not having to do deal with certain things at my job (e.g. meetings) and get all of the benefits (travel, students, great colleagues) is appealing, but not necessarily realistic. I am working on something right now that might lead to a reinvention someday that involves education, but to get another job or to reinvent myself at 43 isn’t something I want to do.

Seventh, kids, kids, kids. I have made no bones about the fact of my desire to be a parent. The last six weeks have certainly been painful in that regard. Mrs. ROB and I are starting to find our way back. However, if we want to be parents, and I don’t have enough money for FI then I need to work for awhile. Also, by working at a university my child/children could receive a benefit of a discounted education. That is one less expense I have to worry about.

Finally, I get bored pretty easy. I was convinced of this when I was on sabbatical a couple of years ago. We had just bought a brand new house so I spent my days moving into the house and trying to work on my sabbatical project. I did both and was still bored. I watched bad television and I actually went to my university once a month for some human connection. I missed my job. Maybe that will change in the future. But I need to have something to occupy me intellectually. I need to structure my day and my job does do that. I like that. Now would I love more free time…sure but I don’t know if I would use it.

What I Want Ideally

First, I want financial independence. I want the ability to choose when and how much work I want to do. That will take a bit. I figure I can maybe get there by 50…but it might be 55. That means 12 more years of the “grind.”

Second, I want to be able to work where I want. I love my students, colleagues, and university. But as I get older the pull of my home state with my parents, my sister, my friends, and the like does have some allure to it. Besides, Mrs. ROB is an only child and would have to take care of her parents someday. We would probably like to move back to our home state someday. My job isn’t just something that I can get on a whim. There can be only a few positions per year. A solution to that is to potentially take a demotion. The money would be less, but I could still teach full-time and be closer to my family. I don’t know if that will happen because I don’t like the idea of working so hard and then demoting myself. However, I think about it and given the right circumstances I could be ok with it I think (my ambition sometimes says no).

Finally, I want to have another outlet for myself. Up until I started writing this blog my only outlet for writing was academic in nature. The truth is I have written more words on this blog over the past two years than I have in my own research. I mean 200 posts at an average of about 750 per post is over 150,000 words. The average essay I write is about 7500 words and I haven’t published 20 articles/book chapters in 2 years (that would be a bit insane). I want to try to develop a different professional outlet. Maybe that involves personal finance. Maybe that involves international education. Maybe it involves political consulting or consulting on other issues. All of those would be great. I would enjoy finding a great outlet for myself beyond my teaching.

This whole blog has been an interesting experience. I can’t say that I have been as diligent about saving as I would like or paying down debt, but the fact that I have kept with it and there are people who actually read it (thank you to the 3 or 4 people who do 😉 really does make my day. So I hope to continue writing as long as this financial journey continues. Considering how far down the debt rabbit hole I am and my concern with other subjects I think this could go for awhile.

As always, thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “Why Early Retirement Isn’t For Me

  1. This is a wonderfully thought out post. It amazing that you have a job that you love (and allows you to travel, which is what I look forward to in retirement anyways). Why not keep at it as long as you don’t feel “slave” to it and can achieve a good work/life balance. Becoming FI is so important, keep at it!!

  2. Thank you so much for the complement. I agree. I don’t feel like I am a slave. I would like to get to the point I don’t have to teach extra classes to pay down more debt, but that day is coming. Thank you for stopping by.

  3. This is a great post. i think it is super important to try to get to financial freedom as soon as you can; it seems apparent that you are doing what you can to get there. My only caution is that “early retirement” can have slightly different meanings to different people and you cannot make that decision now. A lot can happen in the next 20 or 25 years that no one can foresee and you may want to step out of the workforce (e.g., health issues). It’s best to secure your financial position so that you have choices in the future (and one of those options, if you can and want, is to continue working).

    1. Thanks Tom. You are certainly right and I wish more people would think about that earlier in life. I mean I am at the point of life where different choices are confronting me, but I am somewhat hamstrung because of financial reasons. That is why we need to have more education about young faculty and professionals saving as soon as possible.

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